Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

The roof of Tisch Library at sunrise on Medford campus

The School of Engineering's Commitments to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in STEM

According to data published by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), many minorities in the U.S. are severely underrepresented in STEM. For example, Black people make up more than 13%  of the U.S. population. But less than 5% of engineers are Black. People of latin descent (Latinx) make up more than 18.3% of the US population. But less than 7% of engineers are Latinx. More than 50% of the U.S. population are women. But less than 15% of engineers are women. The lack of diversity in STEM workforce not only negatively constrains aspects of our societial and technological growth, but is also a reflection of social inequality and injustice in our society.

The current culture in many STEM fields, whether in academia or in the profession, has not been welcoming and supportive to underrepresented minorities. As a result, many elect not to enter STEM fields and many that do enter, leave after a short stint, either during pursuit of their formal education or early in their professional life. Finally, those who stay in STEM often have to endure systemic bias, injustice and discrimination during their career. All of this is wrong and must change. Engineering can and should serve as an engine for good not only for technological advancements but also for building a more just, equitable, inclusive and diverse culture that impacts the world beyond its disciplinary boundaries. The School of Engineering at Tufts (SOE) is fully committed to do its part to contribute to this transformative societal change.

“Diversity and inclusion are embraced to empower all students, faculty, and staff to succeed in their academic and professional endeavors” is one of the three pillars of the vision statement in the SOE’s Strategic Plan. Guided by this vision, the SOE has invested significant efforts and resources to improve diversity at all levels over the last five years. Examples of these efforts include:

  • Created a Division of Student Diversity and Inclusion jointly with the School of Arts and Sciences.
  • Raised more than one million dollars for the Center for STEM Diversity.
  • Obtained an NSF S-STEM one million dollar grant (FAST-TRAC program) from the National Science Foundation to widen the pipeline for students from groups underrepresented in STEM fields, including LGBTQIA students, to enter graduate programs.
  • Added a requirement that all tenure-line faculty candidates must include a diversity and inclusion statement in their applications.

Through these efforts, we have increased, since 2015, the percentage of women in our engineering undergraduate population from 32% to 44% and among our faculty from 19% to 25%. For the first time in Tufts history, the incoming Class of 2023 engineering undergraduates was more than 50% women. In addition, each year we welcome students who identify outside the gender binary. In 2019, Forbes magazine ranked Tufts #10 on its list of Best STEM Schools for Women. We have also increased the percent of underrepresented minorities* in our undergraduate population from 7% to 20%, and from 5% to 12% in our graduate population. In 2019, Tufts received a Bronze Award from the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) Diversity Recognition Program, the highest level of recognition given by the ASEE at this time. Early this year, Tufts was selected by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute to provide a proposal to their inaugural the Driving Change Initiative on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion to further support student success in STEM.

However, we recognize that this progress is only the beginning. Not only are underrepresented minorities still underrepresented in the SOE at all levels, but many systemic barriers still exist that hinder their success in the SOE. Much more needs to be done to build a more just, equitable, inclusive and diverse culture in our school and across Tufts. Therefore, we pledge that within the next two years, the SOE will:

  • Finalize and implement the SOE’s Strategic Plan for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI), which was drafted in 2019. The plan will lay out the short-, mid- and long-term goals in DEI for the SOE, as well as metrics to measure the progress towards these goals.
  • Require all faculty to attend a diversity and inclusion workshop in AY20-21. The workshop will be conducted for each department and facilitated by the staff from the university’s Office of the Chief Diversity Officers.
  • Hire a Diversity Program Administrator (DPA) to manage projects related to increasing the representation and inclusion of underrepresented groups at the department level. Responsibilities of the DPA include assisting with department diversity activities working both with individual faculty members and with diversity committees, assisting faculty in grant writing and eventual implementation of education, outreach, and broadening participation projects that emphasize diversity and inclusion; promoting interactions between students, faculty, staff, and administrators; coordinating across Tufts with student groups, identity-based centers, and other campus diversity resources; identifying best practices; developing training opportunities; and aiding in tracking department progress toward diversity goals. Additional DPAs may be hired in future years.
  • Start a visiting scholar/professor program to recruit current and potential tenure-track faculty members from underrepresented groups. 
  • Establish a DEI Standing Committee of the SOE comprised of SOE students, staff, and faculty, and provide funding for the Committee to host dialogues, conversations and educational programming.
  • Establish an SOE Colloquium Series that focuses on DEI in STEM. Individuals both within and outside of the Tufts community will be invited to present their work in DEI in STEM.
  • Establish experiential or service-learning pedagogies that thoughtfully ‘weave’ DEI concepts and tenets into what is traditionally seen as ‘a techie’ engineering education. Capstone design and first-year engineering courses will be the starting points. This is a multi-year effort that will continue to grow and mature after the next two years.
  • Conduct a pilot study to identify systemic barriers that prevent underrepresented minorities from entering and becoming successful in STEM. The subjects of study may include standardized tests (ACT, SAT, GRE, etc.) for admission and methods of measuring and assessing student success in learning. This, too, is a multi-year effort that will continue to grow and mature after the next two years.
  • Continue efforts to attract, enroll, and retain underrepresented minority students in our undergraduate and graduate programs.
  • Actively recruit faculty and staff from underrepresented groups.
  • Create a core group of “DEI” badged SOE courses. These courses will be flagged with some sort of symbol on the syllabus or websites as having lectures and material on DEI issues or have gone through revisions to improve the presentation of material, projects and nomenclature to better reflect respect of all individuals.

For more information, please review the diversity resources available at Tufts University and the School of Engineering's 2019-2029 Strategic Plan.

* American Indian/Alaska Native, Black/African American, Hispanic/Latino, Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander